Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards' withdrawal could boost Obama

A real surprise - John Edwards will end his campaign in New Orleans today. He has decided that he will no longer serve as the port where frightened Democratic white male voters can safely shelter their vote. Even though these guys knew Edwards couldn't win, his candidacy was a way for them to reject Hillary without having to take a gamble on Obama.

Now Democratic voters must choose between Hillary or Obama -- and they will have their first chance to see them go head to head in the upcoming debate.

Perhaps there is still time for Obama to win. Voters who think Hillary is the safe choice may realize that there's a good reason that the Republicans are salivating at the thought of running against her. She has the highest negatives of any presidential candidate in recent memory.

If McCain gets the Republican nod, the race will pit a Nixonian Evita against a shorter, older John Wayne. But if the race comes down to Obama versus McCain, it will be the past versus the future, peace versus war, jobs versus guns.

The challenge for Obama is that there is not much time for voters to digest all this before next week's SuperDuper Tuesday. Thank God for the 24-hour news cycle and the Internet.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

STATE OF THE UNION - A voter ID boondoggle that would make the KGB proud

voter fraud

Why aren't Republicans whining about voter fraud during the primaries? Down deep, do they know that there is actually little or no real problem with people showing up to vote who shouldn't be?

JURIST reported last year that a federal panel found the only voter fraud occurs with absentee ballots. (The fact that the report was completed in May but wasn't released until October also suggests the Republican administration didn't like the findings.)

Yet voter ID will undoubtedly be a big issue for Republicans this fall. (Karl Rove can be counted on to perpetuate the hoax.) Note that part of Bush's desultory State of the Union message last night talked about giving employers "the tools" they need to ensure their workers are not illegal immigrants. As BBC reporter Greg Palast blogs, that's code for a kajillion-dollar government giveaway to cronies to build a citizen ID database, preferably one that tracks our fingerprints, DNA and retinal scans (maybe even some face recognition?).

This bill of goods that will shred our Bill of Rights will be sold as a way to ensure none of those pesky illegal immigrants steal our jobs or dilute our votes. Right-wing radio will whip listeners into a frenzy at the thought that hordes of "illegals" will spill across the border straight into the polls to pull the lever for the (female or black) Democratic nominee this fall. The horror. The horror.

What the citizen ID program will really do, of course, is make it easier for the federal government to spy on us. And if you think the Dems will save us from such evils, keep an eye this Friday to see if the Democrats cave to Bush's demands that Congress pass legislation to indemnify the big telcos against lawsuits for the illegal spying on us that they have already done.

At least in Iraq, people who care get to vote. They even get the day off work to do so. Our system instead puts every possible obstacle in the way of people at the bottom of the economic pile. Applying for a new federal ID card is just the latest version of the old-fashioned poll test. Makes you wonder when and if democracy will ever become a priority here, too.

DTRT MYR SCNDL - 1 dwn - 1 2 go?

The text-messaging mayor remains hunkered down in his mansion, planning how to avoid facing the music. As always, it is the woman who steps down. (The persistence of the glass ceiling keeps women in the lesser-ranked jobs -- so there's no question that a Monica would go, not a Bill.)

At some point, Mayor Kilpatrick will emerge and hiphop his way through a press conference, arguing that the official investigation precludes him from commenting. So unless Prosecutor Kym Worthy can get the goods on him, don't buy any wolf tickets that promise Hizzoner will go away anytime soon.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Will a corrupt delegates system give the Clintons an undeserved win?

As both the Democratic and Republican primaries tighten, political junkies like me will start tallying up how many delegates each candidate has. (After last night, the interactive MSNBC toteboard shows Obama with 63 delegates to Clinton's 48. Meanwhile Romney has 59 delegates, compared to Huckabee's 40. "Frontrunner" McCain has only 36.)

But don't bother paying too much attention to those running totals. It's the "superdelegates" (for the Dems) and the "unpledged delegates" (for the Republicans) who may well decide both races. (To learn more about how the two parties choose and allocate delegates, consult the article that tries to make these murky rules comprehensible.)

Awarding someone superdelegate or unpledged status is a way to reward party bigshots, at the same time it also means that they could swing the outcome. When Governor Janet Napolitano endorsed Barack Obama, not only did that win him a few positive headlines when the announcement was made, but she's also a superdelegate whose vote therefore can be counted in his column if there's a convention showdown.

According to the Minnesota Monitor,the Dems have assigned 796 (19%) of the 4,090 primary delegates "superdelegate" status. The Republicans have 463 unpledged delegates (19%) out of 2,380 total (and of those unpledged, 123 are members of the Republican National Committee). Bottom line is that one out of every five votes at the convention will be cast by people who have no requirement to reflect the will of the voters.

The history of primary voting in the United States has long been a battle between democracy and power politics. Sadly, ever since the "power to the people" Sixties, the pendulum has been swinging back to giving party hacks more power, to the point where the system in place today makes the old Soviet Union look like a bastion of democracy in comparison.

I am old enough to remember seeing Mayor Daley's red-faced machinations to ensure Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic nominee in 1968, even though I was watching him on a black-and-white TV. Revulsion at that kind of politics in the Sixties briefly made us a more democratic country. And, for the most part, primary elections since have not been tight enough for voters to realize how much our people power has eroded since.

This could be the year we will see how much we've lost. On the Republican side, imagine the kinds of games that the Establishment Republicans will play if Mike Huckabee comes anywhere near the number needed to be nominated.

The more dangerous and divisive possibility, however, is that Obama could be robbed of the nomination by the ruthless Clinton machine. Can't you see Terry McAuliffe threatening superdelegates with the political equivalent of homicide to ensure the final votes go Hillary's way?

Does anyone doubt that the Clintons would do this? Would they even flinch?

Is it just me or does today's Democratic race echo 1968?The entry in Wikipedia about that contest decades ago reminds us that we never had the chance to find out whether Bobby Kennedy would have received the nod. Before his assassination in Los Angeles during the California primary, Kennedy had won four primaries to Eugene McCarthy's five. Hubert Humphrey did not compete, instead using "favorite son" surrogates to gain delegates he could count on.

Some historians believe Kennedy's charisma would have carried him to the nomination. More objective observers such as Tom Wicker of the New York Times insisted that Humphrey had enough delegates to win and would not have given up the nomination no matter what.

On many levels, I worry that we could be watching a similar scenario unfold today. My biggest fear is that we will return to the political bloodshed of the past. There is something unnerving about having Caroline Kennedy and (probably) Teddy Kennedy, the remaining icons of the Jack/Bobby legacy, endorse Barack Obama.

My second-biggest fear is that we will again see youthful idealism crushed by politics as usual if the relentless Clinton machine is not derailed in time.

This past week proves that the Clintons have no shame. The next few weeks will show whether women voters can see past their gender loyalty to Hillary Clinton and deny her the delegates needed to make it close enough so that the superdelegates matter.

Anyone who cares about the future knows those young people behind Barack Obama last night are the emerging heart of the Democratic Party. I don't want to play Cassandra and jinx the outcome, but if Hillary Clinton ends up winning the nomination by manipulating the superdelegate count, she and Bill will preside over the death of the Democratic Party.

On the one hand, I am energized at the thought that hope will triumph. On the other hand, however, I can feel my heart in my throat.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Hill-Billy, go home

How can the Dems avert a disaster this fall? Find a way to dump Hill-Billy in the primaries.

When I see our former president, with his W. C. Fields nose, in his shiny gray suit with the neon orange tie, he looks like the kind of guy who would seduce a self-absorbed young intern into playing sexual tricks with him and a cigar.

But I remember feeling guilty when I first had these thoughts about Bill. How could I be so trivial, so superficial? But then Bill became the self-anointed Hillary hatchetman. To help Hillary win, Bill is willing to slime Barack Obama himself himself, no matter how undignified this is for a former president. And now I just want Hill-Billy gone.

There is no doubt in my mind that, if we don't stop them, Bill and Hillary will become the stars of a new low-rent soap opera that we will be forced to watch for four more years, four more years. Bill Clinton has proven himself willing to distort, if not outright lie, about Barack Obama, unleashing the same scorched earth assaults that he levied against the "nuts and sluts" who stood in his way before. According to a new poll on CNN, Bill Clinton's attempts to paint Obama as the black candidate mean that Barack will win South Carolina, but with only 10% of the white vote, far lower than his share in Iowa and New Hampshire.

A pundit this morning (too early for me to remember who) said that the Clintons had gone so far that they must plan on offering Obama the veep slot, because it's the only hope they will have of securing the black vote in the fall.

No mas. Let's end it. Make sure that the Clintons take a drubbing on SuperDuper Tuesday. If they aren't stopped, it will be Washington business as usual for the the foreseeable future. It's time to turn a new page.

Bush and Dems destroy stimulus plan

I should worry that I find myself agreeing with more and more of my Detroit News blogmates. But George Bullard is right that the stimulus/tax rebate plan won't do much good.

As economist Paul Krugman explains in the New York Times, the Dems caved on a stimulus plan that would have worked, by putting the money into the hands of people who need it and will spend it. A sensible plan would have included extending unemployment benefits, or paying folks good wages to rebuild our infrastructure, or targeting the money to low-income people.

But the Republicans fixation on taxes taxes taxes and the Democrats timidity and lack of vision conspired to produce a plan that risks spending $140 billion on a plan less likely to work than the alternatives that were quickly rejected. When Mitt Romney droned on last night about how our economy sucks because Washington is broken, we all know that he would be yet another MBA without a clue about the lives of real people.

Did you hear Romney talk about how great the stock market plunge was? While the rest of us worried that our retirement money was eroding to the point we could look forward to dining on dog food, Squire Romney looked upon the disaster as a great "buying opportunity."

But no wonder the multimillionaire Romney isn't worried. He has his money tax sheltered in the Cayman Islands, so that he doesn't have to pay income tax on it like the little people.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

NYT endorsements (they were wrong on WMD, too)

Arguing that Hillary deserves the nod because she's ready from day one, the New York Times has just endorsed Hillary Clinton as their choice for the Democratic nomination. Equally as non-sensically, the NYT also endorsed John McCain arguing that the fractious senator is a consensus-builder who knows how to work well with others.

A fall election campaign from hell! The battle-axe and the bulldog. Is this really the best the United States can come up with after spending millions on primaries that defy reason? Or is this just another example of the establishment closing ranks?

Kwame, Bill and intellectual consistency

I agree with my Detroit News blogmate Henry Payne that the Free Press should not try to have it both ways. The newspaper's editorial board cannot logically argue that Kwame should go for lying under oath when they previously argued that Bill Clinton deserved pass for similar transgressions. However, it is with no great joy that I am being consistent in saying that both men should go.

Lying under oath about a material issue is lying under oath.
The issue for me is equity. If it were Bonnie Bucqueroux or Lil' Kim fibbing under oath, we would end up doing time (as Lil' Kim did). The argument that either Bill and Kwame somehow deserve to escape punishment just because the issue is adultery fails to move me.

In Bill's case, his sin was compounded when he signed legislation that criminalized the workplace harassment that he then lied about in the Paula Jones' case. Serial lying blended with hypocrisy compounded with sexual harassment means that the case cannot be dismissed as "just about sex."

Last I knew, Kwame has not spent much time pandering to the feminist vote as Bill did, but he made a bad situation worse by putting both his arrogance and his adultery on the taxpayer's tab. Settling the case brought about by his unscrupulous behavior in suppressing information about his private life cost Detroiters $9 million they don't have to waste on his peccadilloes.

If consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, put me down for a tiny hat size. I think both men deserve to be broomed off the stage, the sooner the better. Watching Bill Clinton tarnish his already tainted reputation makes me wish that we had seen the last of him long ago.

We do need a new kind of politics.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kiss my bottom

Market analysts like Jim Cramer seem elated at the thought that the stock market has "bottomed." Cramer's eyes glistened and gleamed tonight on his CNBC show "Mad Money." Time for the piggies to head back to the greed trough!

But there is another school of thought, the gloom and doomers (of whom I am a charter member) who foresee a different future. Global warming, with its violent weather, emerging diseases, drought, wildfires and economic dislocations. Then there's also Peak Oil - the argument that we are on the downslope of depleting the world's oil supplies, and that our commuter-based suburban lifestyle will soon become untenable.

James Kunstler, the best author in this apocalyptic mini-genre, will follow up his book "The Long Emergency" with a novel at the end of February called World Made by Hand. This new book explores how our world will shrink to the point where we can only know and care about what we can walk to. In a blog about his predictions for 2008, Kunstler argues that we can no longer sustain our wasteful ways. "Has there ever been a society so exquisitely rigged for implosion? The whole listing, creaking, reeking edifice stands like one of those obsolete Las Vegas pleasure palaces awaiting a mere pulse of electrons to ignite a thousand explosive charges perfectly placed to blow away the structural supports."

BBC reporter Greg Palast, author of the rollicking read "Armed Madhouse," recently blogged about the inevitable economic unraveling that is now a question of when, not if. His latest screed explains how the Saudis now own us, lock, stock and barrel (of oil), now that we owe $3 trillion to China, Saudi Arabia and Japan who hold the paper on our national debt.

So before heaving a sigh of relief that the economic meltdown has been averted, take a moment to read these oracles who remind us that the slide is only beginning.